Unencumbered and foot loose and fancy free and…unemployed….I agreed to do one of those Christmas sales stints. It sounded very good during the talking part. 30% of the sales, they provide the space and the goods and after 6 weeks I’d be about 5 grand richer. It sounded VERY good.
Now, I don’t know if any of you out there have ever worked in a mall during Christmas…but if you want my advise…DON’T. Frankly, you’d probably do better washing windshields in the 7-11 parking lot and the hours are much kinder.
This particular group of yahoos had a system are taped out. They’d been doing it for years and they knew just how to make it work for me. First I started ‘training’ under another guy so I could learn the ropes (read that as working for free). Since he was a friend of mine – a british chap and fellow writer, Giles, was pretty easy to work with. Of course there was that working for free part which I didn’t care for, especially since any sales I made went into his pocket but I agreed anyway because I’d passed up a couple of jobs for this adventure so now I was committed (or I should have been).
So for about 10 days (straight, no time off) I worked Giles’ stand and made some pretty good sales. Of course the company was real swell and paid me a ‘draw’ from my future sales at my own stand, just to help me get by.
Anyway, I finally got my own stand – in West Covina. Which may sound nice and everything but it was about a 30 mile drive from my house and it was a particularly cold and rainy winter season – oh and I really hate to drive the freeways. Oh and I had to go through downtown L.A. to get there. Yeah, that was really great – especially since my heater decided to quit on my and I had to keep a steady supply of napkins handy to wipe away the fog on my windows.
Anyway…I got my own stand in the mall and honestly it was a pretty nice mall. And to be fair to Giles he did come and help me set up and hire some high school girls to do some selling for me – and the sales, well they were smoking. I was able (because of my desparate financial situation) to justify selling gold and silver plated jewelry by just completely ignoring the fact that it was junk. But if you put anything sparkly in front of a person during Christmas they just want it. Truth.
So for 6 weeks, 16 hours a day (not including drive time), no days off I sold. I sold and I sold and I sold some more. I learned how to take naps with my eyes open and while talking to staff and/or customers. For a release I would walk the mall and buy things. Once a week I made a field trip to the company office to restock and get my ‘draw’. Happily gas prices were dirt cheap at the time and with as hyped up as I was on coffee I hardly ever thought of food.
Forget the fact that I didn’t know what I looked like without the pallor and blood shot eyes, that I ended breaking up with my boyfriend over the phone and quite frankly, if I was even conscious by Christmas day there really wasn’t anything to remain conscious for. The minutes, hours, days, weeks went by in a blur of Christmas muzac and the eternal hum of hundreds of shoppers.
Finally came Christmas Eve. The mall was closing early and so I’d only have to work ten hours that day. My girls who had worked for me were so sweet that they pooled their money to buy me a plaque to commemorate an ‘in’ joke we’d developed over those few weeks. And honestly, it was one of the best Christmas presents I ever got because it was so unexpected and it spoke of true affection and good times from some girls who probably should have spent their money on clothes, make up, jewelry and their boyfriends.
Finally, six o’clock rolled around. The big boss came by and congratulated me on my sales which apparently was WAY over what they expected and told me to roll around on the first to pick up (what was left) of my commission check. I gave him the keys to the safe and the receipts and off to home I went.
Giles and I had planned to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together since we were both on our own for the holidays. So I got home, showered and changed, plastered on some make up and went over. I looked like I’d been on a 12 year drunk and didn’t know my name (see picture above).
When I got there Giles was all smiles, wished me a ham sandwich and a happy Christmas. Then he whipped out the big surprise he’d been holding back on for weeks. A 12 year old bottle of Chivas. Now, from what I’ve heard that’s some pretty impressive stuff. I believe it is scotch but maybe it’s whiskey but really I couldn’t tell you the difference anyway.
So me and my pal Giles drank off that bottle of Chivas for the next two days. Occasionally pausing for ham sandwiches or an old movie on the telly. We were so exhausted I’m not sure we even spoke all that much. It was more on the order of grunts and groans and “I’ll have another.” By December 26th we had finished that bottle and were ready for the New Year. Sometime in the next couple of days we got some sleep and finally I went to get my commission check.
Sadly, Santa didn’t have much leftover for me. Just enough to pay the coming months bills and maybe a little extra if I was strict. I actually sat down and computed my hours against what I made and it turns out I made about $3 an hour. Who knew? I could have worked at Kmart and done the same, plus I woulda had that 10% discount. Live and learn and don’t do mall sales! 😉